CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

Japanese adore Anne of Green Gables

The Story


L.M. Montgomery's books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, but in Japan Anne has become a national obsession. Since 1952, Anne of Green Gables has been required reading in Japan's public schools, and thousands of Japanese fans travel to P.E.I. each year to visit and even get married in Anne-themed ceremonies. This CBC Television news clip explores Japan's half-century love affair with Akage No An (Red-haired Anne) as a Japanese television crew broadcasts a live special from Cavendish, P.E.I. 

Medium: Television
Program: Canada Now
Broadcast Date: July 19, 2002
Guests: Frank Butler, Elizabeth Epperly, Masoyo Hando, Nobuo Kojimo, Miki Yamamoto
Reporter: Sally Pitt
Duration: 5:24
Good Morning Japan, Japan Broadcasting Corporation.

Did You know?


• Japan's fascination with Anne of Green Gables can be traced back to a friendship forged in the 1930s between a Japanese translator named Hanako Muraoka and a Methodist missionary from New Brunswick.
• The missionary, Loretta Shaw, was forced to leave Japan when the Second World War began in 1939. Before she left she gave Muraoka a copy of Montgomery's novel as a parting gift.

• Muraoka secretly translated the book into Japanese, calling it Akage No An or "Anne of the Red Hair." She kept it with her during the war, circulating it among close friends and even taking it with her into bomb shelters during air raids.
• After the war was over, education officials in Japan began searching for wholesome Western literature to introduce to the school curriculum.

• Muraoka, who was known for her translations of Little Women and The Secret Garden, suggested Akage No An. The book was approved for the public school curriculum in 1952 and has remained required reading since.
• In the half century since Anne Shirley has become a popular icon for the Japanese, inspiring national "fanne" clubs, glossy magazines, a nursing school nicknamed "The Green Gables School of Nursing" and even an "Anne Academy" which taught men and women how to speak English with a P.E.I. accent.

• At the School of Green Gables in Okayama young Japanese women are taught how to behave like the fictional Anne Shirley.
• A Japanese animated version of Anne of Green Gables preceded the CBC Television series by six years. The 50-part Akage no An ran in 1979 and was created by Hayao Miyazaki, the director of the 2002 Oscar Award-winning film Spirited Away.

• Cultural observers credit the enduring popularity of Anne to a number factors. The heroine's feisty and outspoken nature is said to appeal to Japanese women, who are traditionally expected to be quiet and demure.
• Both Japanese men and women strongly identify with the P.E.I. scenery described in the book. They are also said to relate to Anne's strong connection to nature, which is demonstrated in her naming of trees and plants.

• Nearly 10,000 Japanese visit the Green Gables National Historic site in Prince Edward Island National Park each year. Many of them also get married at the home in Park Corner where Montgomery was married to Ewan MacDonald in 1911.
• After the Green Gables house was damaged by fire in 1997 Japanese residents collected and sent money to repair it.

• Anne is also popular in France, where she her book is known as La Maison aux Pignons Verts, Germany where it is called Anne mit den roten Haaren and Spain where it goes by the name Ana de las Tejas Verdes.
• Anne Shirley's popularity in Japan is rivalled by her reputation in Poland. To hear how she became a sensation during the Second World War go to the clip Anne of Green Gables big in Poland.


More

Beyond Green Gables: The Life of Lucy Maud Montgomery more